ELK GROVE, CA - She always wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and was glad when she got the call to take the helm of a kindergarten class.
"I love this age. They are so much fun," Susan Cooper-Start said as she waited on her students to arrive at her classroom at Ellen Feickert Elementary School in Elk Grove.
The veteran teacher has been an educator for 24 years and starting teaching kindergarten 12 years ago.
On a recent day in Cooper-Start's classroom, the lesson covered the story of Humphrey, the wayward whale who apparently got lost and swam up the Sacramento River in 1985.
Students sit transfixed as Cooper-Start read a huge picture book detailing the real-life event. Cooper-Start's students asked lots of questions and thought up their own ideas about how to turn the whale around and get him to head back to the Pacific Ocean.
"They're like little sponges and they're absorbing everything," Cooper-Start said. "They're excited about everything you teach and put before them, so it makes teaching a lot of fun."
Cooper-Start said she's patient and gentle with her students because "my memories of kindergarten weren't so good. I was fearful in kindergarten. Fearful! My teacher was very stern and very strict."
Cooper-Start said that each student goes home with a special book she makes for them. "It details everything from the first day of school," she said. "I take pictures and prepare a scrapbook, memory book and DVD for them."
"I want them to leave with a love for learning. I want them to know that school is a good and safe place for them," she said. "Every day should be a great day and we should celebrate each day."
By Karen Massie, firstname.lastname@example.org